Both New Zealand and Britain have taken a lot of heat for not doing more to help Phil Blackwood, who was convicted of insulting religion along with two of his Burmese colleagues.
In December of last year, Blackwood uploaded a photo of the Buddha wearing headphones to the Facebook page of a Rangoon bar that he managed along with Tun Thurein and Htut Ko Ko Lwin.
They were arrested after hardline monks complained. Months later, in March, they received two and a half years in prison.
Blackwood was born in the UK but spent most of his life in New Zealand, where much of the criticism has been directed.
But Prime Minister John Key has suggested that quiet efforts behind the scenes are, in fact, being made.
“We have been doing some work on it. We have been looking at it, and we have been dealing with it,” he said, as quoted by Radio New Zealand.
“I know the father of the gentleman in question is of the view the government isn’t doing things, but what I would say is we are, but we’re trying to do it in a way that doesn’t make it worse for his son.”
Phil’s father Brian has consistently called on New Zealand to do more. He did not immediately return a request for comment.
Last month, Burma Campaign UK, which has been assisting the family, called on the British government to step up its diplomatic efforts.
The consular assistant department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) responded by saying it has been doing exactly that, and although New Zealand is taking point, “we have taken a very close interest in the case.”
“It is untrue to say we have done nothing: our Ambassador in Burma has raised it directly with the President’s office,” the statement said, adding that on 19 October, FCO Minister Hugo Swire met with a relative of Blackwood’s.
This report was republished courtesy of Coconuts Yangon
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